Trump is waging a state-by-state battle over coronavirus shutdowns — but GOP governors are nervous about a premature ‘reopening’

Trump is waging a state-by-state battle over coronavirus shutdowns — but GOP governors are nervous about a premature ‘reopening’
Governor-elect Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., joins President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, in the Cabinet Room of the White House Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, during a discussion with Governors-Elect from around the nation. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

President Donald Trump has been stressing that he hopes to see individual states ease their social distancing restrictions and their stay-at-home orders sooner rather than later. But governors around the United States have very different views on when and how they should start to reopen their economies during the coronavirus pandemic: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a far-right Republican and loyalist Trumpista, hasn’t been nearly as aggressive or proactive with social distancing as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, California Gov. Gavin Newsom or New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (all Democrats). And articles published this week in Politico and the Daily Beast describe the tug of war between Trump’s ideas on shutdowns and individual governors’ ideas on shutdowns.


“Over the next two weeks at the urging of the Trump Administration,” Politico’s Nancy Cook reports, “the map of the U.S. will start to resemble a patchwork quilt — with some states open for business while others remain locked down because of the spread of the virus. Trump has said the onus for reopening states lies with their leaders, but he has simultaneously tried to pressure governors into restarting businesses and relaxing health guidelines as soon as possible.”

Many Democratic governors, however, have made it clear that their top priority is protecting the health of people in their states, not trying to please Trump. And Trump has been lashing out at Cuomo and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“The White House has been setting itself up for weeks now to blame governors for the response to the coronavirus, including any failure to procure medical equipment and resources — or problems that arise from restarting businesses and resuming public life,” Cook reports.

DeSantis has started reopening beaches in Florida, and Never Trump conservative Joe Scarborough slammed him for it on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” (which the former GOP congressman hosts) on Monday morning. Scarborough has repeatedly stressed that DeSantis is endangering the health of Floridians by failing to adequately promote social distancing in his state. DeSantis, according to Scarborough, is much more worried about the possibility of offending Trump than he is about the deadly toll that coronavirus is taking in Florida — a state with a lot of older residents.

But in the Daily Beast, reporters Hunter Woodall and Olivia Messer assert that even some red states and some Republican governors are concerned about easing up on social distancing prematurely.

A spokesperson for Wyoming Gov. Michael Pearlman, a Republican, told the Beast that he “is not focused on being one of the first states to ‘reopen.’” Woodall and Messer note, however, that Wyoming doesn’t have a statewide stay-at-home order and hasn’t been nearly as aggressive as other states when it comes to social distancing.

In an official statement, Pearlman’s office told the Beast, “If Wyoming does not proceed carefully, and in alignment with our neighbors, we open up the possibility of our state being overrun with new cases being introduced from neighboring states where the virus is more prevalent.”

One Republican governor who has been aggressively promoting social distancing is Maryland’s Larry Hogan. Another is Ohio’s Mike DeWine. But Maryland is a blue state — not a deep red state like Idaho or Wyoming — and Ohio is a swing state.

“Authorities in some states that hesitated to implement aggressive social distancing guidelines — like Texas and Florida — were already making announcements about plans to reopen spaces like parks by Friday,” Woodall and Messer report. “Residents flocked to beaches in Jacksonville on Saturday, to the dismay of some local officials.”

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